1 Jun 2010, 12:33am
Latest Wildlife News
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Endangered Species: Federal water curbs ’scientifically unreasonable’ in delta smelt case, judge rules

By Colin Sullivan, Water World, May 28, 2010 [here]

U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger late yesterday delivered another win for farmers and water districts looking to export more water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Bay Delta, ruling that federal agencies “completely abdicated” their responsibility to protect economic interests in California alongside endangered delta smelt.

Wanger, ruling from the U.S. Eastern District of California in Fresno, signaled his intention to provide San Joaquin Valley farmers and water districts relief from water pumping restrictions ordered under the Endangered Species Act for the smelt. The decision mirrors a similar ruling on salmon issued earlier this month that led to the lifting of pumping limits this week (Greenwire, May 26).

Like the salmon ruling [here], Wanger’s smelt directive came across as a scolding of officials at the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. Wanger said the agencies had failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when they wrote a recovery plan for the smelt.

“Judicial deference is not owed to arbitrary, capricious and scientifically unreasonable agency action,” Wanger wrote. “FWS and Reclamation … must take the hard look under NEPA at the severe consequences visited upon [California's agricultural industry] and the residents and communities impacted by the water supply limitations.”

Wanger held a hearing with attorneys this morning to hear arguments on what relief is justified following his ruling. A final decision is expected anytime.

The pumping limits for smelt remain in place, for now, but that appears likely to change shortly if Wanger repeats the stance outlined in his salmon ruling. … [more]

Note: Thanks for the tip to Julie Kay Smithson, Property Rights Research [here, here]

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